Saturday, January 02, 2010

The seven-armed sea star along with another sea star at the Marine Biology Regional Centre’s aquarium in Chennai

The two specimen collected by the officials from the sea near Nochikkuppam area have been exhibited in the Marine Biology Regional Centre (MBRC) aquarium at Foreshore Estate.

K. Venkataraman, Officer-in-Charge, MBRC, Chennai, said the marine aquarium on their office premises was inaugurated four years ago.

"We used to collect specimen for the aquarium from the Rameswaram coast and exhibit them. A couple of days ago when a team of officials went to Nochikuppam area, they found two seven-armed sea stars, which have not been recorded in the entire coastline of the subcontinent so far," he said.

During 1930s researchers from the Madras University identified the presence of coral reef bed along the Chennai coastline. The reef bed was found running along the stretch from the present harbour area up to Mahabalipuram. After 1940s no studies or research work had been taken up. Again last year the Geological Survey of India authorities identified the presence of coral reefs near Mahabalipuram, Dr.Venkataraman said.

Explaining the speciality of the seven-armed sea stars, he said like the house gecko, the seven-armed sea stars shed their arms when threatened by the predators, which would later grow automatically. The seven-armed sea stars do not have blood and eyes. Another speciality of the sea stars was that unlike the other marine organisms, they bring their stomach out and digest the feed externally. A total of 2,000 species of sea stars are found world over, of which 765 were found in the coral reef areas, which included all different varieties of echinoderms, Dr.Venkataraman said.

Available records showed that the seven-armed sea stars were found in Mauritius, Philippines and Hawaii Islands.

Coral reefs and associated organisms were found along the Chennai coastline at a depth of about 30 ft, Dr.Venkataraman said, adding that the presence of reef bed provides livelihood for the fishermen, ensures protection of the coastline and helps researchers to take up study on them.

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